Location: 70° 21' N., 31° 02' E., at the extreme northeast corner of Norway, only 40 miles from the Russian border, near the entrance to the Varangerfjord.
In 1307, what was then the most northern fortress in the world was built on the island of Vardøya in the Barents Sea. In the 1700s it was an important trading
centre, with both Finland and Russia sending merchant ships to the ice-free port.
The Vardø fortess was extensively rebuilt early in that century, and in 1789, the
town received its charter.
On June 3, 1769, astronomer Maximilian Hell was on the island to record the tansit of Venus - a memorial plaque honours that event.
Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen used the community during his 1893-1896 explorations. In 1944, the town was almost completely
destroyed by the Nazis and many of its residents murdered.
Fish processing plants and a rapidly-expanding tourist trade provide the primary sources of employment. The population,
which is about half Finnish, has dropped quite dramatically over the past couple of decades, though. In 1985 there were
4,301 residents, while 10 years later, only 3,016 remained and in 1998 the population was down
to about 2,600.
In 1982, Vardø was connected to the mainland by Norways
first underwater tunnel, nearly two miles long. Construction of a small airport with two 2,425-foot runways has also helped stabilize the community somewhat.
The installation of a US radar
system in late 1998 has brought Vardø back into the international spotlight - while
the US claims that it just tracks space debris, experts claim it is a spy system focused
The Vardø area is well-known in birding circles for the great variety of bird species that can be seen, particularly at the Hornoya Nature Reserve, an island just outside the harbour.
There is a single tree in Vardø, a rowan which the residents protect each winter by building a house around it.
Note: there is a great deal of conflicting information about Vardø, even in basics such as geographic coordinates and the name of the island. Corrections to the information I have posted will be greatly appreciated.
By Ignacio Yśfera, from June 2001.
Finnmark Tourist Board
Very brief information on the region's services, with email contacts for Vardø information.
This introduction to the astronomer's life explains the significance of his visit to Vardø in 1769.
Map of Region
An interactive map of the Varanger Peninsula, by Multimap.
Norways oldest museum.
Mean Temperatures, 1840-2003